There’s no doubt that drug abuse or addiction greatly impacts one’s life. Drug users can’t expect to live a normal, healthy, and smooth life. From their body to mental health, career, relationships, and social life, everything is affected. The vital organ of the body that is severely affected by drug use is indeed the brain. It’s also the most important organ considering its role in maintaining all functions of the human body. That’s also the reason that substance abuse single-handedly can destroy a person who once lived a cheerful life.
Though several treatment modalities have been introduced such as Iboga Treatment, experts are more interested in knowing if the brain can heal itself after drug use. Several studies have been carried out in this regard and surprisingly brought up some interesting facts.
To understand whether the brain can heal itself after drug use or not, we must first know how it works.
How Does the Brain Respond To Drug Use?
Neurons and Neural Pathways
The brain is responsible for many functions and works by sending signals to organs at the time of need. A network of billion neurons and neurotransmitters helps the brain send and receive messages. Alternation in the brain’s chemistry gives rise to several problems.
A human brain is pretty much capable of learning and memorizing things. When we do certain tasks repeatedly, neural pathways are developed for them, and we become habitual. The same happens when we consume drugs. These drugs tend to mimic the effects of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers). But the signals sent by them aren’t the desired ones. They can also increase dopamine levels inside the body either by reducing its uptake or stimulating the release. This rapid surge is adjusted by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors or its production via the brain.
Our brain knows very well about adaptations too. When you start using drugs, the brain is flooded with dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with mood and hence gives you pleasure when present in an increased amount. However, after the brain adapts to its effects, it becomes a norm, and you suddenly stop getting high by taking the same amount of the drug. This is called tolerance. At this moment, your liking for drugs decreases, and your desire increases. You need to take more quantity of drugs to feel the same effects.
How Brain Recovers Itself?
Once you decide to quit addiction and stop taking drugs, the brain will automatically start “unlearning” this behavior. It’ll take quite a time, but it’ll happen. Previously it was thought that a mature brain doesn’t produce new cells. However, after some recent research, it has been proved that the brain can always produce new cells as well as create new neural pathways to learn and memorize new experiences.
When used for a prolonged time, drugs tamper with our brain functions. Though the brain can recover itself gradually, we also need to adopt some practices such as Ibogaine treatment, detox, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy to help it do so.